Many fine people from the great state of Colorado made their way to Surprise Stadium on Monday, and hopefully they didn’t take Bell Road all way from Scottsdale.
It’s spring break in many counties in Colorado, so the Rockies had a nice crowd behind them as the visitors against the Texas Rangers.
As a Colorado native who spent 18 years without Major League Baseball in his hometown, the trip is familiar. The Wilson family would drive each spring break beginning in 1985 to Phoenix for spring training.
There were only eight teams in the Cactus League back then, as opposed to the 15 these days. Only one of them was in the West Valley, but the Milwaukee Brewers were in the El Mirage/Grand Avenue area only for the first year of our annual trek.
Cleveland was in Tucson, San Diego was in Yuma and Anaheim (then California) was in Palm Springs, Calif. Once the Rockies were hatched, we made our way to their spring home in Tucson.
It was a great trip, all nine of them.
No. 10 as a beat writer is almost over. The Rangers have things to address before then.
Thoughts? Here are The Surprise Five.
1. The only thing Adrian Beltre dislikes more before a game than talking to the media is talking to the media about an injury, a slump or 3,000 hits.
The beat writers must have ruined his morning, as we touched on all three.
The third baseman revealed that he has a tight right calf that kept him out Monday and prevented him from working to fix a swing that left him hitless in 12 Cactus League at-bats and only 1 for 28 this spring when including his performance during the World Baseball Classic.
Beltre said that is “progressing” with his swing and has no doubts that he will be ready for Opening Day.
Why is that, Adrian?
“Because it’s not April 3 yet,” he said.
That seems reasonable. No, really. At this point, after 19 seasons in the majors and six with the Rangers, who can doubt him?
But he hasn’t been on the cusp of 38 years old in past seasons, not that there’s much difference between 37 and 38. If at 38 he produces the kind of season he did at 37, he will easily eclipse 3,000 hits and move within 25 homers of 500.
Say, he might be worthy of the Hall of Fame some day, don’t you think?
2. Time for the Daily Delino DeShields Update, which for the rest of camp (all of two days) will be called the DDDU. The Rangers’ camp MVP poured it on again against Colorado with two walks, two singles, a steal and a run in his first four plate appearances and also made a couple of difficult plays in center field look easy.
His spring performance hasn’t come against Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan or Greg Maddux in their prime midseason form, but that’s not his fault. He’s shown a keen eye against the all comers and put aggressive swings on their mistakes, and his speed is unmatched on the team and by only a few in the league.
If the Rangers believe this is an improved, more experienced version of the 2015 DeShields, they have to give him the left-field job. That’s what he appears to be.
Wolfe stands to be a busy individual during the off-season, should Darvish get there without a contract extension. The plan for now is to let him pitch and see what happens (and see how high his salary demands could go).
Wolfe said that Ross reported feeling normal for the first time in a long time, and also mentioned how difficult it was to gauge Ross’ workload last season. He wasn’t just sitting on the coach as trainers and docs tried to figure out what was wrong with him.
There were bullpen sessions, rehab assignments, actual pitches thrown. So, he might not be on as tight of a leash this season once he’s healthy as one might have expected.
The Rangers could have three members of their rotation head to free agency after the season, with Andrew Cashner joining Darvish and Ross, and they don’t have much in the minors to promote to prominent rotation spots.
That’s why Wolfe stands to be a busy individual during the off-season.
The question is fairly standard for many teams each spring: What will Team X do if Closer X falters?
My answer: That hasn’t even been a topic this spring.
Part of that, I explained, might have had to do with Dyson being away much of camp with Team USA, where he didn’t allow anything in six innings. Another factor is that there just seems to be more confidence in Dyson this spring than there was in Shawn Tolleson a year ago.
Dyson is firmly entrenched as the closer. Should he struggle, Matt Bush is sitting in the passenger’s seat ready to jump behind the ninth-inning wheel. Maybe the question about Dyson, who tossed a scoreless inning Monday, will be more meaningful next spring, or maybe Bush will be too good to not put in the ninth inning.
For now, though, the Rangers’ closer situation is of little concern.
5. The Rangers made three moves Monday morning, releasing first baseman James Loney, reassigning outfielder Jared Hoying to minor league camp and optioning right-hander Eddie Gamboa to Triple A Round Rock.
The Rangers also told righty Anthony Bass and catcher Steven Lerud that they wouldn’t be making the club.
Don’t overlook the two pitching moves. The Rangers are woefully thin on upper-level starting pitching depth, and Gamboa and Bass could become options for later in the season if pitcher hits the disabled list.
Bass has agreed to stay despite having an out clause in his minor league deal. He might leave for a better opportunity should one come along, but with the way Rangers pitchers have a tendency to drop like flies, Bass might want to stick around in the organization.
The Rangers will continue to look for arms to add to their Triple A rotation, which at this point includes Gamboa, Bass and Austin Bibens-Dirkx. Nick Martinez could join them if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, and so could Dillon Gee if he doesn’t take the out in his minor league deal.
Quality starting pitching depth is vital. No team is going to be able to stash away Cole Hamels or a pitcher anywhere near that level. But a team needs experienced arms to call upon when needed — and they are almost always needed — and the Rangers could have those.
They could also use more. You can never have enough pitching, right?